Secret Service Interrogates Seventh Grader About Facebook Comment

The Secret Service has long taken an extreme position on what it views as threat to the president in questioning journalists, commentators, and even cartoonists. Now, Secret Service agents have questioned seventh grader Vito LaPinta about a simple exchange he left on Facebook.

A Tacoma student’s mother said that she received a call from his school that both the Secret Service and Tacoma Police had shown up looking for Vito.

The reason was a statement made by Vito on Facebook that simply said that, after Bin Laden’s killing, President Obama should look out for suicide bombers — not an unreasonable observation. One can easily imagine the same statement on any cable program.

That simple comment led to Vito being called out of his fourth grade class and confronted by an agent who said that he was suspected of threatening the President.

They did not wait for his mother in interrogating the seventh grader. Later police say that the mother did not take the call from the security officer seriously — a claim that she vehemently denies and said she rushed to Truman Middle School immediately.

The Supreme Court is considering a case where police questioning a child without informing this parents and used statements from the interview against him. In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, a middle school student was pulled out of his social studies class subjected to intense questioning without his parents in a meeting with school officers and administrators. We are awaiting a decision — though the Supreme Court has been historically less than vigilant in protecting rights of students.

In this case, a secret service agent began with a perfectly understandable observation made by many in the wake of the killing. He then found out the author was a seventh grade student. He then proceeded to go to the school and tell the child (in the absence of a parent) that he was believed to have threatened the president. At what point does this become a matter of discipline?

For years, civil libertarians have complained about the free speech implications of the Secret Service’s investigation of statements made about presidents — including statements that, while hostile, are clearly commentary. The criminalization of “threats” is so broadly interpreted by the Secret Service that most any hostile statement can trigger an investigation. The concern is that this amounts to an effort to chill speech. My concern in this case is far more focused. When Secret Service pursue seventh graders and interrogate them without their parents, we have serious problems of an agency with either too much time on their hands or too little supervision — or both.

I am also (again) concerned with how some school officials continue to disregard protections for the children in their care. There was no imminent need to interrogate this child before the arrival on his mother. Soon after she arrived, the agent cut off the interview and said that he was satisfied that the president was safe.

Source: 13Fox

20 thoughts on “Secret Service Interrogates Seventh Grader About Facebook Comment”

  1. Something similar happened to my son and he dropped out of school because of it. The allegation was that I might have stepped on my neighbor’s property next to the street. That didn’t happen anyway because he lied to police about the property line. The police rushed over to the school and interviewed my son in front of hundreds of people about my alleged wrongdoing. Then all the kids stopped talking to him. Seriously for 6 months noone spoke to him and then he stopped going to school. This is one reason why I hate Steamboat Springs Colorado.

  2. In a related story, the Secret Service apologizes for Tweeting something negative about the multi-national multi-billion dollar FOXNews corporation – namely “Had to monitor Fox for a story. Can’t. Deal. With. The. Blathering.”, but not for violating the rights of Timi Robertson and her son, Vito LaPinta – the story the Secret Service agent was following.

    That score again at the half . . .

    Sorry to the big corporation.

    Not sorry to the citizen’s with the violated rights.

  3. His mother says she isn’t financially able to take legal action but hopes her family’s story raises awareness about the treatment she said her son endured.


    says it all, doesn’t it.

    kudos to the security guard for calling the parents. why didn’t the principal?

  4. Secret Service motto:

    Never leave any Tern unstoned…

  5. There is no rhyme or reason to our protective services, despite their ultra serious responsibilty.
    This story attests to that: in 1988, Reagan campaigned for Bush in PA. I showed up outside the venue with a sign declaring “Bush for Mayor of Kennebunkport.” Within minutes I was surrounded by Secret Service agents demanding that I explain an obviously facetious sign. Then they confiscated the stick the sign was attached to on the grounds that the stick could be used to strike people, even though the average Bush supporter didn’t “get” the sign’s message.
    My problem is that now, weapons are blithely carried to presidential events, so the president can look like a strong 2nd amendment guy.
    The real blame lies with school officials who caved to the agent; they should be fired by the district solicitor,if possible.
    The agent was just following orders from a very literal organization. They should hire some English majors from the Ivy League and cut down on the wild goose chases.

  6. This bit of stupidity only confirms that fear, ignorance and irrationality are the real results of terrorism. There will always be those in this world who would commit heinous acts, but we do not need to allow our fear of this to control our lives.

  7. Big tough guy and his police backup … until mom gets there … then everybody heads for the hills … tough guys

  8. The only person threatened was the kid. By the government thugs/jackboot/totalitarian monsters.

  9. James,

    Good question!

    Ted Nugent–a real class act…and what a man! I’m so impressed by all his gunpower. What he really needs is a shot of brain power.

  10. How long after the posting did it take for government agents to actually identify that a written threat was made, and identify the name and location of the user?

    No doubt social media comments are filtered and turned in to government by an automated process.

    I remember listening to a related story, where a disgruntled customer vents his frustration about a visit to an Apple store on his Facebook page, and an armed assault team shows up at his home within hours.

    Government indoctrinates children with years of pro-state propaganda in public schools, conditions children to terror alerts, searches of possessions, physical searches at checkpoints, continuous surveillance of activities on cameras along with other invasions of privacy, all with the goal of creating more and more compliance to state power in successive generations.

  11. Look out Jon Stewart (he said he would vote for a Republican over Obama during interview on Fox).

    Le Gestapo of the Apocalypse rides again.

  12. And it’s only going to get worse.

    “Says J. Kirk Wieb, another former NSA employee, “I feel I’m living in the very country I worked for years to defeat: the Soviet Union. We’re turning into a police state.” Maybe he’s being hyperbolic, or he’s got an axe to grind. But I get chills when so many former staffers from that agency are publicly making remarks of that sort.

    One wonders what we’d hear if whistle-blowers weren’t made targets of criminal investigations that could imprison them for decades, even as leakers who don’t embarrass the government or have the right friends in high places are seemingly free to break the very same laws with impunity.”


    A must-read is Jane Mayer’s article:

    The Secret Sharer

    “Wiebe, the retired analyst, was the most surprised by the raid—he had not yet been contacted in connection with the investigation. He recalls that agents locked his two Pembroke Welsh corgis in a bathroom and commanded his daughter and his mother-in-law, who was in her bathrobe, to stay on a couch while they searched his house. He says, “I feel I’m living in the very country I worked for years to defeat: the Soviet Union. We’re turning into a police state.” Like Roark, he says of the raid, “It was retribution for our filing the Inspector General complaint.””

    Another quote from the article:

    “But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

  13. Maybe the kid was also suspected of trying to pay his friends with Monopoly money. Two birds with one stone and all that.

  14. “My concern in this case is far more focused. When Secret Service pursue seventh graders and interrogate them without their parents, we have serious problems of an agency with either too much time on their hands or too little supervision — or both.”

    That would be my concern too.

  15. If this is the kind of agent idiot the Secret Service employs in the Office of Protective Operations, then President Obama is being ill served.

  16. This is also somewhat disturbing to me based on the fact that it WAS such a common sort of phrase, like something from the news. I have no idea what would have tipped them off to go investigate this one in particular since I’m sure many people wrote or said similar things.

    However, as to the fact that it was a 7th grader, I actually think that makes this slightly more investigation-worthy rather than less… not because of the student himself though. This sort of phrase sounds like it came from the news, and well, sadly not that many 7th graders watch the news, so where did he hear it? From a teacher or parent would be the logical guess, and if there were any prior suspicions of this kids relatives or local teachers that the Secret Service had, then I can see them wanting to talk to the kid ASAP and without parents there to influence what he may say.

    In fact, this would seem to be the only reason they would have taken action on that comment in the first place – if they were already keeping tabs on the family or school.

Comments are closed.